Night Out Against Crime builds relationships between Southside residents and law enforcement officers
By Nicole Davis
National Night Out, America’s National Night Out Against Crime, first began in 1984, with 400 communities in 23 states participating in front porch vigils. The idea was to give community watch groups information and keep them involved through police partnerships.
Each year it has grown.
According to natw.org, 16,000 communities across the nation now participate with block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and other community/police events. Always on the second Tuesday in August, this year’s events will take place on the evening of Aug. 1.
That growth shows on the Southside, as every police station gears up to celebrate this national campaign with neighborhood block parties or big community celebrations, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Beech Grove, Southport, Homecroft and Greenwood Police Departments.
“It’s about getting more outreach to the community and ties with the police department, getting more information from the public to help us do our jobs better,” said Beech Grove Lt. Mike Treat. “That’s why National Night Out is so important. We’re able to talk to the public on a one-on-one basis about crime prevention and awareness. It helps to strengthen the neighborhood spirit through partnerships with the community and the police.”
Beech Grove Police Department has participated in National Night Out, in some form, for decades. In recent years, it has become more of a block party, festival-like celebration.
“Since we’ve been holding more formal events in the past couple of years, I think it’s made a big difference in the cohesion of the police department,” Treat said. “I think the people appreciate the extra little things the police department is doing to try to reach out to the public and figure out their needs.”
This year’s event, 5 – 8 p.m., is between the 700 and 800 block of Main Street, hosted by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The Eagles will provide food, including hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks. Children can enjoy snow cones, face painting and a bounce house. Informational booths will be set up, as well as a display of the SWAT team’s newest equipment: an armored vehicle.
“We’re not just limited to 7th and 8th street,” Treat said. “We’ll have officers interacting throughout the community. One or two apartment complexes are passing out invites for our officers to stop by. There’s been more of an outreach in the last couple of years, that it’s been extended to a community event and not just this location where this event is being held.”
In the past, Greenwood Police officers have attended neighborhood events for National Night Out. For the first year, Greenwood Police Department is throwing its own celebration, from 5 to 7 p.m. in front of the police department at 186 Surina Way.
“We felt like we needed to as a community,” said Officer Kortney Burrello. “
The Greenwood celebration includes numerous vendors, the fire department, SWAT truck, bicycle unit and more.
“We’re bringing all of the units out to this event. Typically we don’t have every unit at the police department at one event, at one location… I’m looking forward to getting the kids out and the community together for this event. I think it will be a great event. All of it is free. Come out and enjoy the police department and everything we have to offer.”
The Southport Police Department has thrown a community party every year since 2013. The first year, the officers offered door prizes and made hot dogs. The following year, the department began to reach out to local businesses for sponsorship and collaboration. Now, the event entails more than 55 businesses donating items and an ever-growing attendance.
“It’s police, businesses working together to grow,” said Southport Police Chief Thomas Vaughn. “A lot of it has to do with how we’re doing community policing, too. We’ve pushed really hard to get officers out of the cars, get to meet people. When we hold this event, every officer is here. It opens up that communication. It’s a good way for the community to come in and hang out with the officers…. We’re able to go out and have a good time. For me, I’m not being just the police chief, so straight-laced. I’m not in charge. It’s just hanging out with the people and getting to know the people around us.”
The officers do free DNA and fingerprinting kits for the children, which could help if the child ever goes missing. Food is supplied from local restaurants including Uno Pizzeria & Grill, McDonalds, Scotty’s Brewhouse, Papa Johns, Fazoli’s, Long’s Bakery, Walmart and Jacks Donuts. There will be a live and silent auction. Target will have a back-to-school backpack giveaway. All sponsors are invited to give out their items. The children can enjoy games, bounce houses, or try their hand at dunking an officer in the dunk tank. New this year, Southside Harley has lent two police motorcycles for the public to view.
“It just keeps growing,” Vaughn said. “It’s a way for the police to give back for all the support that we’ve gotten year-round. I’ve been really lucky from that standpoint, the support from the community. That makes my job a lot easier.”
Officers from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Southeast District will visit approximately 20 neighborhood celebrations. For neighborhoods such as Coventry Park Village in Franklin Township, it’s an important opportunity to build those one-on-one relationships with the officers that patrol their area.
““I think Coventry Park Village has been supportive of the crime night almost since the community was organized, when they started selling homes to retirees in 2006,” said resident, Harvey Lange. “It’s been a good deal and it’s very positive for our community because it brings our residents together. We have a chance to share with one another and catch up on what’s going on. We have a very good relationship with our police department and know some of the people personally.”
Coventry Park averages 30 to 35 residents who participate – a large percentage of the 56 homes that are currently occupied in the community. Residents organize a pizza party with the sides pitched in and invite the IMPD officers to join them.
“We ask them to give us any particular council,” Lange said. “They’re always underscoring, if you see anything unusual, give us a call. You are our eyes and ears. You can recognize when there’s a strange car that’s been frequenting your street or something unusual happening… I would like to encourage other areas of the community to observe crime night and support this effort on behalf of the police department, for them to come into the neighborhood and get better acquainted with us. We look forward to this.”
National Night Out
What it’s about: natw.org
Beech Grove Police Department
What: Food is provided, snow cones, face painting, a bounce house, informational booths and equipment display.
When: 5 – 8 p.m.
Where: 700 block of Main Street.
Greenwood Police Department
What: Check out local vendors, meet the fire department, and explore the variety of things the police department has to offer.
When: 5 – 7 p.m.
Where: Greenwood Police Department, 186 Surina Way, Greenwood.
Homecroft Police Department
What: Food, drinks, bounce houses and more.
When: 5 p.m.
Where: 1400 E. Tulip Dr., Town of Homecroft.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Southeast District
What: IMPD will be at numerous locations across the Southside.
When: Evening, times vary.
Where: Neighborhoods include: Oxford Place Apartments, Christian Park, Norwood, WECAN, North Square, Twin Aire, Bean Creek, Garfield Park, Meridian Raymond, Old Southside, Fountain Square Alliance, Laurelwood, Carson Heights (joining forces with University Heights and Rosedale Hills), Copper Grove, Franklin Lake in Woods, Bierman Neighbors, Acton Community, Coventry Park, McFarland Farms and Southridge Square.
Southport Police Department
What: Free food catered by local restaurants, kids scavenger hunt, bounce house, door prizes, Dunk a Cop and silent auction fundraiser event to help purchase police equipment. Plus free fingerprinting and child identification kit.
When: 5:30 – 9 p.m.
Where: Southport Police Department, 6901 Derbyshire Rd., Southport.